Free Range Cooking: Gourmet Beer Mac & Cheese

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Sunday I joined the cooking-with-beer club. The results left my family fat and happy. Turns out using beer instead of milk makes for a sharp, unique taste similar to fondue. And using all your favorite cheeses renders the richest, creamiest, tastier gourmet beer mac & cheese ever. This recipe is perfect for cheese-lovers, beer-lovers and pretty much anyone who appreciates a better-than-Kraft mac & cheese. Serve it at your next Sunday night football party or keep it all for yourself (there wasn’t any leftover, but I bet it’s just as delicious the next day around).

We all know a master chef never measures or follows a recipe, so I approached this project from a free range cooking perspective (i.e. I threw a bunch of stuff into a pan and taste-tested it until I was satisfied). Here’s my if-I-had-to-guess list of ingredients and their quantities:

  • 1 pound high fiber pasta shells4E48AD72-92C2-4C3F-BBA1-DBD3ADEE80D5
  • 1/2 cup beer (I used Cape Coral Brewing Company Hungryland APA)
  • 1 1/2 cup sour cream
  • A lot of cheese. I used four varieties: Cabot seriously sharp white cheddar (1 cup), shredded yellow sharp cheddar (1 cup), Asiago (1/2 cup) and garlic & herb goat (1/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine (I compensated for cheese overload with a healthy butter wannabe)

Optional:

  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 tomato finely chopped
  • 2 cups spinach finely chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion finely chopped
  • Basil, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Step 1
Bring water to a boil and cook pasta shells al dente over medium heat. Do not cook pasta all the way. Once cooked halfway, strain pasta, rinse with cool water and set aside.

Step 2
Combine sour cream and butter in a saucepan and heat on low. Add cheese periodically, stirring to create creamy mixture. Add beer to thin mixture and continue stirring C7A798E9-0BB1-4D78-8D58-57D63D00519Eregularly. Option to add seasonings.

Step 3
Bring skillet to low heat on neighboring burner. Add dollop of olive oil. Once hot, add garlic and onion. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. One slightly cooked, add tomato and spinach. Add seasonings and let sizzle.

Step 4
Once cheese mixture reaches desired thickness, stir in sauteed garlic, onion, tomato and spinach. Add pasta shells and cook for 5 minutes or until shells cook completely. Stir thoroughly.

Step 5
Transfer gourmet beer mac & cheese from saucepan to baking dish. Sprinkle cheese of choice (I used cheddar and Asiago) to coat top of shells. Place in oven and cook on broil until top browned – no longer than 5 minutes.

Step 6
Remove from oven and allow a few minutes to cool, Then scoop a bowlful of the richest, most delicious gourmet beer mac & cheese you’ve ever tasted. Enjoy!

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